After several decades of neglect in international development policy, agriculture finally seems to be back on the agenda. However, this renewed interest has yet to translate into money on the table. Global support to agriculture in development programmes has decreased from 16% in 1980 to 4% today. This is despite the fact that 70% of the world's poorest people are farmers, and that hardly any country has managed to escape from high levels of poverty without substantial investments in their agricultural sector.
Somehow, we need to increase production dramatically on currently available farmland while drastically decreasing the use of water, external inputs, climate impacts and waste in the food chain. In order for 9 billion people to have access to safe and healthy food by 2050, we need nothing less than an "Ever-Green Revolution", i.e. a green revolution that respects the planetary boundaries.
Today, 5359 kcal/person/day are produced in the world, twice the amount that people actually need. Still 1 bn people starve and the numbers are increasing! This represents a political failure. Unless we deal with who produces what, where and for whom, it is easy to imagine a future where productivity has increased due to technological advances -without affecting global levels of poverty and hunger.
The key to sustainable and pro-poor agricultural development is to recognize the "multifunctionality" of agriculture. That is, agriculture is a social, cultural, scientific, economic, ecological and also a political activity. All these dimensions –not least how they interact -have to be understood and addressed. Both research and development therefore ought to be as interdisciplinary and collaborative as possible.
Sweden has a good international reputation when it comes to environmental and development issues. We also have a broad resource base in international agriculture, located with a wide variety of actors. It is high time to build on this reputation and mobilise all the competence that we have in order to make our contribution to what we refer to as the 21st Century Food and Farming Challenge. This also entails increasing investments in agriculture-related programmes within the Swedish budget for development cooperation.
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